The Pressure Path

By Jennifer Rudo

As a mom of a 7th grader and a 10th grader, I worry about the pressure for kids to pick a life path when they are so young.   Some of these kids don’t even know what they want to eat for breakfast, but we as a society expect them to choose a college and a major, which are life and financially altering decisions, by May of their senior year in high school.

Parents need to let their kids know that it’s okay not to know what you want to be at 16.  It’s okay to enjoy the teenage years and not constantly be thinking of the next step.   Allow your children to live in the moment and experience where they are without getting too obsessed about where they are going.

In some families, the children are focused on attending a college that is beyond their financial means and that may mean taking out substantial student loans.  At that young age, do they really understand the implications that a decision like that might have down the road?

When you are a parent, the whole process is a balancing act.  Part of our job is to balance aspirations with reality.  You want to encourage your children to aspire to be the best they can be, but an important part of parenting is helping them evaluate what is realistic in regard to their situation.  Support your kids by keeping an open mind to all the options on the table and by helping them do the same.

Not everyone can afford an Ivy League school.  Not everyone is college material.   The decision to attend something other than a 4-year university doesn’t mean you’re settling for something less.  It means you’re choosing a different option – one that works best for you.

Here’s a list of 5 proud alternatives to going to college from Forbes.com:

  • Enrolling in a tradesman or vocational school
  • Serving in the military
  • Volunteering
  • Starting in an entry level job
  • Pursuing entrepreneurship

Parents can teach their kids that there are all kinds of different paths to the future and that the real meaning of success is when you find the one that’s right for you.


Jen Rudo is JOIN Teen Engagement Coordinator for JCS.

Because children don’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.



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